Work-Life Balance? Integration? What is it?

I read this quote recently from Jae Ellard, founder of Simple Intentions:

“...most people share a simple and similar desire to create easy joy and meaningful engagement between interconnected roles, relationships and responsibilities that make up their lives.  And this is what they mean when they talk about work-life balance.”


To hear friends and clients express frustration over work-life balance can be an understatement.  We live in a world that has blurred those lines. From a parent checking work emails at their child’s baseball game to someone who is doing work while watching Netflix in the evening.

What is it that we really want in this “balanced” life?  Less work and more play? Less stress? More time for what’s important?

I’m trying to figure that out myself.  I do resonate somewhat with Ellard’s quote.  I am desiring joy and meaningful engagement in work and life, not just the “life” part.  I want a career that brings me joy, that allows me to make my contribution to my part of the world, and gives me relationships that uplift and challenge me.  Besides, isn’t work part of our life and living?

As a Professional Coach, I have the opportunity to give people the space and time to really understand what they are seeking and desiring.  The conversations can be eye opening (I really don’t like my job) and life-giving (I have more clarity about how I want to balance and integrate my whole life).  This is not easy work, I know. But in the end, it is well worth the pain and choices.

Why would you want to give equal measure to parts of your life that drain you?  Why not spend some time trying to figure out what you truly desire in your life?  And then integrate what gives you joy and meaning!

Helping others find that “balance,” joy and meaning is what I love to do!  The scales tip, some things get dumped off, others get added in, and a life that supports you brings you a greater quality of life!!  Now that’s balance!

Email me:  mark@markabrewer.com


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Who Am I?

Over the past few years, I have become more interested in my ancestry and where I come from.  I’ve created a family tree in Ancestry.com and have traced some family members back to the 1700’s!

My ancestry.  My lineage. My heritage.  My genetics.

I am a compilation of all their DNA!  And so are you!

The two pictures are of the monuments on my great grandparents' graves from both my father’s side (Sikso) and my mother’s side (Marino).  Of the 4 of them, 3 of them died before I was born. Yet, I’ve heard many stories about them, how they lived, what they did, how they loved.

My DNA includes their DNA.  And yet, I can forget about this. I can limit who I see in the mirror by how I look that day and by what I do.  I rarely think about who I am, especially in relationship to my ancestors.


Maybe I have my great grandmother’s eye color.  Or maybe I have my great grandfather’s hands. I don’t know.  However, I wonder if I also have some other things of theirs:

  • Their faith?

  • Their motivation to be someone?

  • Their desire to cook and bake for family and friends?

  • Their love for family and friends?

  • Their drive to make the world a better place?

  • Their ability to make people laugh?

  • Their love to make people feel comfortable and safe with them?


Do you ever think about possessing these qualities of your ancestors?  My suspicion is that not many of us do. Yet, I wonder if these parts of their DNA are within us as well, and not just the physical resemblances?

I thought of these as I took the pictures of their graves recently.  What of them do I possess today that I am called to manifest in this world of ours?

What would it be like to think of ourselves not just as a composite of our parents, but also a combination of a whole history of our family?  From our eye color to the way we laugh! From our height to the love we carry for family! I believe all of it comes from them, both their fulfilled and unfulfilled desires, aspirations, and traits.  We are them.

Think of this today as you look at yourself in the mirror.  Who are you a reflection of? I’m guessing you might see a long line of family behind you.


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Mirror, Mirror on the wall...

Who’s the handsomest man of all??!!

Selfies.  So many today!  And, how many actually like taking one?  Or two? Or a thousand? How many get retaken to get just the right smile, pose, angle, gut sucked in?

We are obsessed with perfection.  I must admit that I used to not like having my picture taken.  There was always something wrong. I look goofy, too fat, too smiley, too hunched over, too whatever.  I noticed every imperfection on me.

Where does that come from?  Well, if you think about it, I’m comparing my image with some other image in my mind….of another person who doesn’t have crow’s feet, of a model I just saw online that makes me look so not handsome, of someone else who has what I think I lack.

What would it be like to look in the mirror and see the person deep inside, beyond the exterior, who is quite beautiful, who is in the image and likeness of God, who is pure you?  If I look beyond the bags under my eyes, might I begin to something more, something more youthful, more life-giving, more beautiful, more me? Might I begin to see my true essence?


In that essence there is no perfection, there is only perfect Mark, perfect me.  The one who was created to be this person, look this way, and live this life. My DNA is all over this and it is unique!

Instead of looking for the perfect self, what might it be like to look for the self whose image and likeness is exactly and perfectly as it should be?  The self who has been marked in such a deeply perfect and permanent way that the only selfie that can be taken is the one with the lens of the heart. To see perfect beauty in who you are created to be!  There is no need for a second, third, or thousandth selfie. Truly perfect beauty cannot be captured by a camera, but only by the one who is looking for it.

I see many people searching outside of themselves for the perfect them.  And, quite honestly, they run into many roadblocks and dead ends. Because what they are looking for cannot be found out there.  It has to be searched for and found within. Perfection is within. It has no external standards. Perfection comes from living one’s life in the way that makes you authentic, real, whole, beautiful.  Beauty comes from the soul, not from the cosmetic department or fitness center.

I love journeying with people as they discover that inner place filled with their beauty, their abilities, their compassion and love, their true perfection.  It’s a place filled not with images of crow’s feet and 6-pack abs, but a place filled with heart, soul, beauty, life. It’s a place that mirrors you.



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Aye, Matey!

Do you know why pirates wear eye patches?  I’ve asked this question to a few people and the answer is the same. They have lost an eye.  That would be incorrect.

I had the pleasure and honor to speak to a local Rotary chapter this past week, and they incorporate the National Days calendar into their meetings.  Thursday was National Talk Like a Pirate Day….Argh! So, I wanted to play along.

The President of the chapter asked that question.  The answer is: to prepare one eye to see in the dark, so that when they go below deck that eye would be prepared to see in the dark.  They would put the patch on the other eye and use the eye already adjusted to the dark to see!

I never knew that!  As I was waiting to give my presentation, and heard that answer, I thought I would tie that into coaching.  Totally made it up on the fly!

Often in coaching, there are moments when clients may go into dark places - about work/career, relationships, how they are showing up in life, struggles, challenges, about the future.

In the dark, clarity isn’t usually there.  We can’t see. We struggle to find our way through.  Enter the Coach...with an eye patch!

As I coach, there are times when I have the wonderful privilege to walk with someone into those dark places, where they can’t see more than a couple of inches in front of themselves, and be a source of light and vision with them.  I never thought that I was a pirate with an eye patch who could remove the patch from my eye and help someone see a bit more of that dark pathway that is possibly leading them to a place of light with an eye that is already accustomed to the dark!  I have seen my own dark places and have become familiar with them and how they intimidate me.

Coaches can have this intuitive ability to sometimes see more than their clients in the dark.  To help them trust them and begin moving out of their paralysis and fear. To ask questions that help the client see more of the pathway forward.

How often might you be in the dark and need someone to help you through?  What is your experience of darkness in times of transition and questioning?  You might need that Pirate Coach who can see in your darkness! Aye, Aye, Matey!


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No one is an island (nor would I want to be)!



“No man is an island,

Entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.”


~John Donne


The people in the above photo are part of my continent, my group, my tribe, my posse, my colleagues, my friends.  And after having been with them and learned from them, I wouldn’t want to be an island. They are energizing, compassionate, supportive, challenging, affirming, resourceful, wise, and genuine human companions on this journey of life.  They inspire me and make me want to be more. I want to be a part of their continent and their journey as well for as long as I can!

To have people like this in your life is pure gift!  To have companions who walk beside you and with you, who hold your hand when needed, and who nudge you when you need to be nudged.  The people who see more in you than you may see in yourself. The people who are willing to go to the places within you that no one else may have gone before.  They hold those spaces as sacred, special, filled with life and potential. They hold you and love you as well as challenge and coach you when needed. To me, that is true and pure friendship and companionship.

I will be with this continent this weekend to finish up our Corporate and Leadership Coach training.  I look forward to so many moments of connection and life with them! I look forward to being with our trainers, Karen and Jenn, who have become more to me than just trainers.  They are friends on this journey, friends who inspire me to be my awesome self, and who inspire me with their worldly experiences! I am so grateful for them and for the rest of my continent of coaches.  To be a part of them, and them a part of me, makes this journey so much more joyful and adventurous!

The name of this coaching training is GET Real.  I have been the wonderful recipient of the realness and authenticity of this amazing group of people who I now call friends and colleagues, co-workers on the journey.

I hope your life is filled with an amazing continent of peeps who do that same thing for you!


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New Beginnings

“New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.”

~Lao Tzu


So true!  Going to college. Getting my first job.  Going to the seminary to study for the priesthood. Leaving priesthood to enter a relationship.  Leaving a full time job to begin my own business.

All new beginnings.  All with endings that preceded them.  Some endings were excruciatingly painful, while others may not have been as painful.  But, none-the-less, there was some kind of pain involved.

Leaving home. Leaving studies to enter the workforce. Leaving the country to study in Belgium. Leaving a vocation I loved and was quite good at. Leaving job security for a new venture.

I wonder if in the excitement of the new beginning we dismiss or don’t take notice of that which is coming to an end?

My relationship with my family as I have known it was going to change when I left for college.

My life of studies and college would change to a 9-5 work day...and no homework!

My life in the workforce ended and I entered studies and discernment for ministry.

My life and world as a single man would become filled with another person.

My 9-5 daily work life now changes to managing my own hours and time.


A lot of external changes, but oh so many more internal changes.  My emotions/feelings. My body. My experience of the world. My experience of myself as I moved into these new beginnings.


I have found that in the process of beginning something new, attention also needs to be given to that which is ending - relationships as we know them, daily contacts, my schedule, my time, my money and resources, my feelings, and my very self.


I find that in staying with, or reflecting on my endings, I have gained much wisdom about that which is going away, as well as that which my body is feeling.  My head may say, “I’m ready! Let’s do this!” But, my body and my emotions may be saying, “Wait. We need to grieve this, feel this, take this in and really experience it.”  The painful ending is about saying goodbye to that which has been. To the ways that we have “known” others, the world, and most definitely ourselves. Sometimes we are not good at saying goodbye because it can resemble a death.  Dying to something that is going away so that something new can emerge.


Transitions in life have both endings and beginnings.  And these transitions have all kinds of emotions, from sadness to anger to joy and exhilaration!  I have been through many transitions and can attest to all of this. Never easy, but always worth it because I have grown through each of these transitions.  They have contributed to the person I am today, and I would not want to change any of it.


What kind of a transition might you be immersed in right now?  How can I help you with it?


In the end, it is always a new beginning, and it will always have so much more to it than just the sparkly new thing.  It will involve growth pangs and your entire being. After all, the new beginning is really about you anyway. 


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Curiosity vs Judgment

A classmate of mine from high school wrote recently to me on social media and wrote, “You are the Walt Whitman of our class.”  A very nice compliment, although I’ve never thought of myself as a writer. However, in response to his post, I will share a Walt Whitman quote:


“Be curious, not judgmental.”


How very true his words are.  Can I be curious with my friend’s compliment instead of judgmental?  A compliment can be so easily dismissed, and with that, the lesson and insight into what it potentially can give to the recipient.


As a Life Coach, I’ve been immersed in this thought, but not quite necessarily in Walt’s quote.  To be curious in life and with others gives so much more than be judgmental. To be curious with my clients is such a journey of exploration and insights!


My own history can be rooted in self-judgment as well as judgment of the world and people around me.  What I’ve learned is that judgment limits me, limits my view of my life, limits my experience of the world and others, and limits my growth.


On the other hand, what might a life of curiosity be like?  Curiosity is filled with exploration, investigation, inquisitiveness, learning and growth.


When I left the priesthood in 2012, I was filled with judgment, mostly of myself.  I failed. Why can’t I stay in a particular occupation/vocation? What’s wrong with me?  What are others thinking of me? Total and complete judgment.


When I entered into a relationship, judgment entered in.  What will others think of me as a gay man? Will I even be able to be a good partner to him?  Is this sinful?


All of that kept me small, afraid, and hidden.  I wanted to not be seen, not make waves. But, curiosity has taken me beyond judgment and into a deeper understanding of who I am.  I am much more than my vocation. I am much more than my sexuality. Curiosity gifted me with acceptance, grace, and new life.


Walt Whitman and 7 years post priesthood reminds me that life is truly about growth and expansion.  Life is about curiosity, not judgment. When I judge, I stagnate. When I become curious, I move, grow, and even fly!


As we move through the experiences of life, where do we find ourselves in this spectrum between curiosity and judgment?  I believe both exist in our lives, and both can have their place. However, I wonder if, like me, we might tend towards the judgment side and neglect the curious side?


What would your life be like if you were more curious and less judgmental?  What would that life look like, feel like, and taste like?


I wonder if curiosity might lead us to more open doors, and less walls?  What would life be like if we actually followed our curiosity into the places that we have judged?  Geez, what if I seriously think about becoming a writer???


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Moving Forward

Narrow+View.jpg
Expansive+view.jpg

I am in the midst of a life transition.  From working full time for a company to becoming a solopreneur.  Of course the process of moving from one to the other is not an easy one.  It will take much blood, sweat, tears, body, spirit, heart and guts.

 

As I ponder this move, I reflect on the 2 photos above.  There are times when the path forward is narrow, dark in spots, filled with obstacles and uncertainty of where the path leads beyond what I can see.  At other times, the vision forward seems wide open, full of possibilities and options, a larger more expansive view, clearer.

 

Both can have their comforts and their fears. I may be a person who only wants to see what is right in front of me.  I don’t want to look too far down the road for fear of feeling overwhelmed.  Or I may fear the wide open expansive view because there are too many options.  I can’t choose.

 

However, in both of these views, I am only looking forward.  I am not looking back.  Even in the presence of fear, the unknown, and the voices in my head, I keep my eyes, my vision and my courage on the road ahead, as narrow or expansive at it may be.  That’s the direction I am moving in.  I do not desire to go back to where I was, who I was, and what I was doing.

 

These views also provide me with a newness of life, of purpose, of growth.  I am becoming.  If I am not growing, if I am not challenging my being, then I am stagnating.  Stagnation can be fatal.  We are all meant for movement on all levels of living – physical, emotional, relational, work/vocational, and spiritual.  Everything is about growth and moving along the path of life.  I believe that this transition will result in new life for me!

 

What do you see when you look forward in your life?  What kind of transition might you be experiencing right now that you would like to move through with more purpose, more vision, more heart and guts?  What do you believe about yourself through all of these changes?

 

Life is about moving forward on the path, whether narrow or wide, and giving your entire being over to the experience of all of it!  There is a newness of life waiting for you!

 

Transitioning forward! I’m looking forward to meeting myself in new ways! As a Life Coach, I look forward to seeing you experience YOU in new ways as you transition forward!

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Front Row or Third Row??

Front row or Third Row??

Front row or Third Row??

When I look at this picture, far too many times I have lived in the third row, especially on a roller coaster!!!  Life can seem to be full of ups and downs that just upset me, worry me, make me scared, and, quite honestly, unenjoyable.  I just hate the long drop off! My mind fills with fear and my body fills with tension. Life can be a “white knuckle” kind of experience, especially when experiencing something that is a change or transition.

We can get consumed with worry and doubt, fear and trepidation, create all kinds of scenarios that have dire outcomes, and live, well, like the third row.  We look glum, unhappy, worried, not even noticing the life around us. Third row living rods us of so many things.

What would it be like for you and me to live in the first row, especially when we are faced with some kind of challenge, change or transition??  Instead of seeking out the third row, why not try the energy and life of the first row??!! It really is our choice. We choose to create the scenarios that makes us third row people.  If we can do that, then why can’t we create scenarios that make us first row, let the wind blow up our skirt, laugh till our belly hurts, and seek out the excitement people??!!! I can tell you that the journey through that challenge, that change or transition will be much better than the third row!  Giving ourselves over to much more energizing thoughts and choices will lead us to the first row experience! Life will still be a roller coaster, but it will be filled with laughter, joy, and a much better view! I am sure of that!

Life Coaching for me is about helping people see and make choices for movement from the third row to the first row of their journey.  Helping people see a different perspective to their life experience is mind blowing and life changing! I love seeing faces, hearts and spirits move from fear and imprisonment (third row) to greater engagement, risk, purposefulness, and freedom (first row)!  Instead of being strapped into the third row seat and looking down, they are holding their heads high, taking a look at the horizon and seeing a much better landscape, a much lighter and more enjoyable place. Are you feeling stuck in fear and limitations as you try to move through a very challenging life transition, and desire to be free to think more broadly, positively and joyfully?  Then let’s chat, and get you started moving towards that front row experience.


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Resistance

The image I have with this blog post is of the resistance knob on my stationary bike.  It gets used quite a bit as I cycle to various online cycling classes. I must admit, I don’t like it when the instructors say that we are going to do a hill.  Of course that means more resistance. Ugh!

Why do I resist resistance????  After all, in the context of a cycling class, it’s meant to make me stronger and healthier.  More resistance makes me use more muscles and gives me more of a cardio workout. How I look forward to when we can take the resistance off!

Resistance is meant to hold us back.  In cycling, it does. However, the opposing force from me is to push harder through it.  Resistance is meant to make things harder, so that in the end, we feel more accomplished.  We pushed hard and maybe even pushed ourselves beyond our (self-imposed) limits! Ironically, resistance, which is meant to hold us back, gives us the ability to see more of who we are.  It can force us to go where we have not gone before, to new territory. When we engage it.

Where have we encountered resistance in our lives?  At work? At home? In our marriages, relationships, friendships?  Where have we been called to push harder against a force, a resistance, that is trying to hold us back?

I wonder if the resistance we often face in our lives might be something that comes from within.  Might it be our own inner critic, our own self, trying to hold us back? The resistance to maybe try something new?  The resistance to having a difficult conversation with someone? The resistance to leave a job for something new? Resistance call us to back down.  Resistance can be very creative. It can make us fearful, even paralyzed. It can make us see a distorted reality where we fail, or hurt another person, or get hurt.  Resistance shows us the darkest outcome and really sells us short. We can’t do it. We will fail. We will screw it up….big time.

What would it be like if we, like the knob on the bike, engaged the resistance when we found ourselves up against it?  What might we learn about ourselves and our abilities if we engage, rather than run away from, the resistance? When I am asked to turn the resistance up on the bike, my inner critic can say, “Not this time. Let it go for now.  You’ll get it next time.” Of course, that voice and message will be there next time too. Instead, I try listening to the voice that says, “Wow! Let’s do this! Let’s see how far we can go this time!” Both voices are there. I am choosing for the higher truth. Resistance is an opportune moment, a crossroads, where I am asked to either turn back down or push ahead.

I often wonder if resistance might be a God moment that is calling us to an experience of greater and deeper life?  I wonder if these moments are invitations to new life, to learn something new about another person, about our strengths and abilities, about who we are?

Next time you are in the midst of that resistance knob being turned in the positive direction, ask yourself: Do I want to go with this resistance or do I want to back off?  Am I willing to go to a new place of knowing and experiencing myself and my world? Or do I just want to back down and let my life continue as it has been? We are expansionary creatures meant for growth in so many ways.  Why let that resistance push back to what we know, when we can push ahead into a new frontier, a new place of discovery, a new level of strength, a new level of resistance? Maybe it’s an invitation to that line from Star Trek: To boldly go where no one has gone before.


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